Wednesday, June 08, 2011

Bigger than Blackwater: Arming the UAE

Hannah Gurman

The International Defense Exhibition, otherwise known as IDEX, has been held bi-annually in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) since 1993. It is the largest defense expo in the Middle East and North Africa and one of the biggest in the world. But far from being a one-off, it highlights the UAE’s growing stature as a global arms buyer.

This year’s IDEX took place in the glistening Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre. Its high ceilings and massive rooms displayed a diverse array of high-tech weaponry against the backdrop of heavily illuminated signboards like the ones you see in the showrooms of luxury car dealerships. All the big Western defense corporations were there — Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Dyncorp, Northrup Grumman, European Aeronautic Defense and Space Co. — as well as Chinese companies, including China North. There were also a host of local companies including Arabian Aerospace, Abu Dhabi Ship Building Company, and the state-owned Mubadala. Like all of these events, it was a heavily male enterprise. The exhibitors wore suits. The visitors wore either the military uniform of the UAE or traditional Arab dress.

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